Friday, March 26, 2010

The end of DADT? Apparently not. Yet.

Spencer Ackerman of The Washington Independent reports what, at first glance, seems to be promising news:

In a major victory for opponents of the military's ban on open homosexual service, Defense Secretary Robert Gates significantly revised how the Pentagon will implement the so-called "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, effectively making it difficult to remove a soldier, sailor, airman or marine who does not out himself or herself as gay.

Gates said the changes, endorsed by Joint Chiefs of Staff and vetted by the Pentagon's top lawyer, would add "a greater measure of common sense and common decency" for service members negatively impacted by the law.

It's a start, perhaps, but it's not nearly good enough. After all, the new policy does not effectively end DADT. While it places serious restrictions on the process, servicemen and -women can still be discharged for being gay.

As Keori explains at Pam Spaulding's place, "this is a compromise intended to shut down forward movement on repeal of the ban on LGBT servicemembers. We did this dance in 1993, and based on the actions we've seen recently from the White House, I don't believe for one second that there is any real impetus to repeal the ban.

But we'll see.

At HuffPo, Nathaniel Frank is more optimistic:

In announcing today that it would make it harder to fire gay troops under existing policy, the Pentagon took a major step towards ending DADT. While the President and Pentagon could have gone further, for instance by halting all discharges by executive order or allowing only two-star generals to initiate a discharge (instead the level was set at one-star), the policy is also a federal law, and so the Pentagon is ultimately limited in what it can do to relax the ban.

Today's news marks an admirable first step which could have a real impact on the lives of service members, while leaving much work to be done to ensure full repeal. Most important, the revisions under what's being called the "Obama Rule" are a recognition by the military that openly gay service does not disrupt the force. The military would not have agreed to soften the gay ban (just as it did not agree in 1993) if its leadership truly believed it would harm readiness -- and Secretary Gates said today that the new regulations were created with the "unanimous" support of all the Service Chiefs, even though some have been grumbling about repeal.

It's time, long past time, for Obama and the Democrats to do what needs to be done to put a formal end to this bigotry.

Repeal DADT. For good.

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